The African Studies Centre has been a privileged institutional form in Britain for knowledge production on Africa since the end of colonialism. This article argues that the origin of these UK centres should be located in the colonial research institutes established in Africa, in particular the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute and the East African Institute of Social Research. Attention to the knowledge about Africa that was deemed authoritative by these institutes as well as to the institutions and structures underpinning that knowledge production can raise important questions about today’s centres that need to be addressed as part of a decolonization agenda.
This article analyzes how the fundamental challenge of decolonization has resonated in history textbooks published in France since the 1960s. It therefore contextualizes textbook knowledge within different areas of society and focuses on predominant discourses that influenced history textbooks' (post)colonial representations in the period examined. These discourses encompass the crisis of Western civilization, modernization, republican integration, and the postcolonial politics of memory. The author argues that history textbooks have thus become media, as well as objects of an emerging postcolonial politics of memory that involves intense conflicts over immigration and national identity and challenges France's (post)colonial legacy in general.
Reflections from Cambridge
Heidi Mogstad and Lee-Shan Tse
This article has grown out of ongoing conversations, critical reflections and practical attempts at decolonizing anthropology at Cambridge. We begin with a brief account of recent efforts to decolonize the curriculum in our department. We then consider a few key thematic debates relating to the project of decolonizing the curriculum. First, we interrogate some consequences of how the anthropological ‘canon’ is framed, taught and approached. Second, we ask how decolonizing the curriculum might subtend a broader project towards epistemic justice in the discipline and the university at large. Third, we reflect on the necessity of locating ethics and methodology at the heart of ongoing conversations about anthropology and decoloniality. We conclude by reflecting on the affective tensions that have precipitated out of debate about the ‘uncomfortable’ relationship between anthropologists as intellectual producers at the ‘cutting edge’ of the canon, and the discipline’s rife colonial residues.
A Participant Observer’s View
I dwell here on my own experience of working at Cambridge University for methodological reasons. Anthropologists could make more of the humanities tradition of going deeply into particular personalities, places, events and relations in search of wider truths. Ethnography exemplifies this, but the discipline’s assimilation into the social sciences and academic bureaucracy counteract this impulse. I draw selectively on my anthropological education and academic work to interrogate the political relationship between western societies and their former colonies. Cambridge University is reactionary for sure, but its decentralized organization makes room for a minority sometimes to change the world. The historical example of the abolition movement illustrates this. Anthropology ought to be a way of rethinking the world, and I conclude with how and why I introduced students to the anti-colonial intellectuals who did just that when they led the liberation (not ‘decolonization’) movements that overthrew European empires.
Making Object Biographies
Margareta von Oswald and Verena Rodatus
In Germany, the new cultural center Humboldt Forum (to open in 2019) has become a major site of debate. It will include the contested collections of both the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art, which contributed to the negotiation of the role of colonial legacies and their reverberances on contemporary Germany. We took those contestations as a point of departure for the exhibition Object Biographies (2015), part of the program Humboldt Lab Dahlem designed to experiment with innovative displays for the Humboldt Forum. Here we reexamine our research collaboration with the Beninese art historian Romuald Tchibozo that was part of the exhibition. His call for the “decolonization of research” was the central guideline in our museum practice aiming for cosmo-optimistic futures. We argue that focusing on processes and questions engaged by the exhibition project can transform contested museum spaces to enable negotiations on ownership, representation, and memory politics.
Resource Extraction, Anti-Capitalism, and Relational Futures
Melanie K. Yazzie
In this article, I examine the anti-capitalist and antidevelopment politics that Diné resisters espouse in their critiques of resource extraction in the Navajo Nation. I argue that existing anthropological and historical studies about Diné resistance minimize the specifically anti-capitalist character of this resistance by erasing the capitalist underpinnings of development. I draw from Indigenous feminists, Native studies scholars, and Diné land defenders to argue that development in the form of resource extraction is a violent modality of capitalism that seeks to kill Diné life. In response to this death drive, Diné resisters have created a politics of relational life to challenge and oppose development. I examine the historical and material conditions that have given rise to this politics of relational life and suggest its central role in invigorating anticapitalist decolonization struggles.
This article explores what it means to decolonize feminism in the university today. Pushing against the idea that feminism in the university is disengaged from broader struggles, the article suggests a complex relationship between feminism as a knowledge project and as a political one. While feminism has had a long-standing decolonizing imperative within the university, equally challenging has been the decolonization of feminism. The #MeToo era has foregrounded the universalizing horizon of feminism, posing new challenges for this project. Arguing for a more complex understanding of generations and the politics of location in these debates, the article draws on a recent and not so recent feminist archive, such as the articulation of ideas of intersectionality and the ways in which multiple feminisms have been understood, in order to explore decolonizing feminism today.
Diasporic Epistemology and the Decolonized Curriculum
Jovan Scott Lewis
With educational campaigns that ask ‘Why isn’t my professor Black?’ and ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ there is a push directed towards institutions to provide an education that is diverse, inclusive and representative of the liberal ideals that many promote. This is being done primarily through a discourse of decolonization. In this article, I consider the formulation for a truly decolonized curriculum by first assessing what constitutes a ‘colonial’ education, especially one that is deserving of decolonization. I then discuss the parameters of educational decolonization, by thinking with decolonial and anti-colonial thinkers, to assess the tenability of a decolonized curriculum. Ultimately, I suggest what forms a decolonized curriculum might take by drawing on diaspora theory and by describing broader programmatic requirements within the framework of the Black Radical Tradition that offers decolonial epistemologies as a broad praxis for education.
Indigenous Girls' Presencing as Decolonizing Force
Sandrina de Finney
This article calls for a reconceptualization of Indigenous girlhoods as they are shaped under a western neocolonial state and in the midst of overlapping forms of colonial violence targeting Indigenous girls. By disrupting the persistent construction of Indigenous girl bodies as insignificant and dispensable, I explore alternative conceptualizations of trauma, place, and girlhood that might enact a more critical, politicized girlhood studies. I link this analysis to Leanne Simpson's (2011) notion of “presence” as a form of decolonizing resurgence. Drawing from participatory research studies and community-change projects conducted with and by Indigenous girls between the ages of 12 and 19 years in western British Columbia, Canada, girls' everyday processes of resurgence and presencing are highlighted in the hope of expanding understandings of their cumulative effects as decolonizing forces.
Giuliana Chamedes and Elizabeth A. Foster
Scholarly attention to decolonization in the French Empire and beyond has largely focused on the political transitions from colonies to nation-states. This introduction, and the essays in this special issue, present new ways of looking at decolonization by examining how religious communities and institutions imagined and experienced the end of French Empire. This approach adds valuable perspectives obscured by historiographical emphasis on French republican secularism and on the workings of the colonial state. Bringing together histories of religion and decolonization sheds new light on the late colonial period and the early successor states of the French empire. It also points to the importance of international institutions and transnational religious communities in the transitions at the end of empire.